William W. Johnstone (October 28, 1938 – February 8, 2004) was an American author of over 200 novels in many genres who met with early success in horror, but went on to become a bestselling author of men’s adventure and western series fiction. His 1980 novel The Devil’s Kiss launched his career as a full time writer. He wrote more than 20 horror novels through the mid-1990s before refocusing his efforts on action/adventure series and westerns, eventually hitting the USA Today bestseller lists.
Johnstone’s life was as interesting as one of his novels. The bio on his official website says that he was “born in Southern Missouri, the youngest of four children. Raised with strong moral and family values by his minister father, and well-tutored by his school teacher mother, Bill quit school when he was fifteen. He was kicked out of the French Foreign Legion for being under age and joined the carnival. But still valuing his education, he returned home to finish his high school education in 1957. He went on to work as a deputy sheriff, did a hitch in the army, and began a career in radio broadcasting, where he worked daily on his verbal and storytelling skills for the next sixteen years on the air.”
It’s interesting from my perspective to see that Johnstone was raised with a strong moral background; in discussing his horror novels, I have a friend who categorizes his work as Protestant Horror, i.e. all the people who do bad stuff and mess with evil get their just desserts, and the good guys tend to come out okay in the end. In any event, these are some of my favorite 1980s Zebra horror covers. Alas, there are no artist credits given in the books.
To browse the list of his titles currently available in print and eBook editions, click here.
These cover scans are from the library of author Christopher Fulbright.